New York’s recreational marijuana market is beginning to sprout, literally, with thin-leafed plants stretching towards the sun in farms around the state.
In a novel move, New York gave 203 hemp growers first shot at cultivating marijuana destined for legal sales, which could start by the end of the year. Big indoor growers are expected to join later.
But for now, the field is clear for growers like Frank Popolizio of Homestead Farms and Ranch, where a small crew north of Albany earlier this month dug out shallow holes for seedlings before packing them in by hand.
“It is an opportunity. There’s obviously going to be a demand for it,” Popolizio said during a break in planting. “And, hopefully, it benefits the farmers. Been a long time since there’s been a real cash crop.”
Popolizio is tending to a half-acre (0.2 hectares) plot that will grow upward of 1,000 plants, surrounded by a tall electrified fence. He and other “conditional cultivator” licence-holders can grow up to an acre of marijuana outdoors. They can grow all or some of their crop in greenhouses, though in smaller areas, and use limited lighting.
The licence is good for two years, and holders will be able to distribute cannabis flower products to retail dispensaries.
The head start for hemp growers is an unusual way to gear up a marijuana market. Heather Trela, a marijuana policy expert at the Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, said states typically rely initially on…